Category Archives: parenting

Everything Moments

These are days of plenty. This is a season of more-than-enough. This is holy generosity dispensed to me by the King.

This isn’t a season of less-than, although as of late I have been tempted to argue otherwise:

• Aging parents and accumulating needs making their withdrawals from the ledger.
• Financial interruptions that dip into the “summer fun” account.
• A lingering infection that coughs abruptly, heats up sporadically, and labors diligently to take hold of instead of break free from the flesh.
• Fractured conversations with the children I bore … the children I adore.
• Marital miscommunications that unearth seemingly forgotten pain and an oft-spoken question … (Again, Lord?)
• A sadness that sometimes sneaks quietly into my spirit, taking a long summer nap in the shade of my heart.
• High cholesterol, creaking knees, hot flashes, and a body that has failed me.

Cumulatively collected, it seems as if a detour around the poke-and-prod of summer is in order. Cumulatively and currently lived, however, I think I’ll stay right where I am. Why?

Because today, knee-deep in the might-be misery of my summer, I shared a bag of McDonald’s fries with my daughter, and I thought to myself …

This is good. This is grace. This is generosity. This is pure, untainted joy – an everything moment often uncalculated during a tabulated struggle. My life is filled to over-flow with everything moments. God has not short-changed me on anything. Instead, he’s lavished me with his holy everythings:

• Conversations and time spent with parents that cannot be replicated.
• Financial blessings that leave some wiggle room for summer fun.
• Prayers and medication that release me from my flesh, not keep me bonded to it.
• Enough love to mend fractures.
• Enough love to salve old aches and old conversations with a fresh helping of God’s mercy.
• Enough peace to awaken sadness.
• Enough laughter and humility to forgive the aging process.

God’s holy everythings are everywhere. It takes a holy heart to seek them out and then to hold them up to the light despite the shadows of a dimly-lit life. In doing so, in giving these everything moments a place of illumination while suffering through the pokes-and-prods of summer, we keep the life-ledger balanced.

Does a new pair of eyeglasses cost more than a bag of McDonald’s fries? No doubt, and it is one of the reasons behind my nagging worries this afternoon.

But to hold the attention (and the heart) of the one whose eyes rest behind those eyeglasses for a few moments? Well, folks, the ledger is more than balanced. The ledger is dripping with eternal abundance.

The Father who made us, knows us. He understands our summers … all of our seasons. He knows what will bring us peace, even as he knows about the turmoil that leads us toward unrest. Accordingly, along the way and as we go, he’s planted everything we need in order for our minds and hearts to push beyond the mayhem in our lives. He’s sown a garden of everything moments, so that we might be able to step outside of the temporal and to see his eternal. When life is measured through that set of lenses, life is duly celebrated.

So today, I raise a toast to my everything moments. To yours as well. Further still, I pray for eyes wide-enough to see them as they arrive, for wisdom enough to lift them up as illumination, and for a thankful heart to God for being so very generous with me. Would you join me in celebrating our everything moments today? I’d love to hear about some of yours in the comments below. Shalom. Be well.

Everything Moments (© F. Elaine Olsen, 6-28-2016, allrightsreserved.)

A spontaneous hug, a lingering kiss,
A ride through the park, a sunset unmissed.
A morning unhurried,wrapped safely in sheets;
An afternoon rain, an evening walk through the streets.
A tub full of bubbles, a gerbera in bloom,
A bird sweetly singing, a new bride and her groom.
A dip in the pool or a dip of ice-cream,
A nap in the shade, colored by the wildest of dream.
A smile round the table, for there’s corn to be shared;
Warm bread and soft butter, enough room to be spared…

For more love, more grace, more moments face-to-face.
More comfort, more strength, more confessions at-length.
Less guilt, less blame, more skin in the game.
Less hiding, less fear, more room for a tear…

Gently released, gently received,
Gently embraced, gently grieved.
Gentle hands, gentle souls,
Gently walking, fewer holes…
Left wide-open, left unguarded,
Consequently, less bombarded…

By nothing-moments that shouldn’t count,
By worldly standards that rate discount.
By devil’s schemes that work their ill,
By temporal needs that rarely fill.

Instead, by everything-moments that fruitfully amount,
By godly standards that take into account…
A Father’s love that heals all ill,
Eternal grace that lavishly overfills…

Everything.
with his moments.

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Growing Up as a “Mean Mom” … {and give-away}

DSCN1598 (935x1024)I had the privilege this evening of praying with a friend. The focus of our prayer? Our children – hers grown, mine half-grown. Or so it seems. Does the growth factor really ever come to an end? Does our growing up have an expiration date? I don’t think so. In that sense, we’re not so unlike our children. We, ourselves, are just big kids, a few steps ahead of the pack coming up behind us.

I’ve been a parent for the past twenty-six years – over half my life. I’m still at it with two children under my roof. In these almost three decades of doing mothering, I’m not sure anything about parenting has gotten easier. I’m certainly a calmer person today than I was twenty-six years ago. Years of living and growing beneath the shadowing wings of grace have afforded me this gift. Even so, I suppose there are times now when my parenting (as a job) has grown stale; day-old parenting as well as day-old bread isn’t as tasty as a loaf fresh from the oven.

This is why I’m thankful for my friend, Joanne Kraft’s, recently released book The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids. I didn’t secure my copy thinking I had a whole lot of new mothering tips to learn; instead, I knew I would learn something further. I would have the opportunity to lean in and to listen to my friend’s heart. I trust her heart, and anytime you and I pull up a chair alongside a heart we can trust, we learn. We expand. We grow … up and beyond and further into the person God has ordained us to be.

Joanne’s book reignited something inside of me – a push of sorts to be more engaged in these final years of parenting the two children beneath my roof. The Mean Mom’s Guide to Raising Great Kids is not about getting your “mean” on. Instead, it is a grace-filled invitation to invest in the everyday worlds of our children and to say, “I’m here. I care. We’re in this together, and by God’s grace, I’m going to help you walk these next steps successfully.” Mean moms don’t leave the parenting to others. Mean moms fight hard for the hearts and futures of their children. I, for one, needed a reminder along these lines.

Did you know that Mean Moms …

• Walk by faith
• Put Marriage First
• Pray
• Model Honor
• Don’t Take Sides
• Make’em Work
• Use Their Words
• Say No to TV
• Slay Goliath
• Don’t Speak the Language of Busy
• Mean Business
• Embrace Failure
• Rule Technology
• Talk Purity
• Drag Kids to Church
• Eradicate Entitlement
• Friend Their Teens
• Focus on the Future

I didn’t either. Oh sure, I’ve been modeling most of these behaviors for years. I just didn’t know what to call myself. Thanks to Joanne, I now know. I am unequivocally a member of the Mean Mom Team. Why? Because as Joanne says in her book (pg. 18),

“I’m not raising a kid. I’m raising an adult.”

DSCN0766 - Copy (1024x791)And I, for one, want to give my kids the necessary tools to become necessary adults in a society crying out for sound minds, good hearts, and godly souls. My children are my gift to the world. The grown-ups they become are a direct reflection of the intentional, mothering investments I’m willing to make now … today. Their growing up doesn’t wait until I have it together. Neither does mine. Growing up, instead, happens along the way and as we go. Accordingly, I pull up a chair alongside my friend, and I pull up my heart alongside my kids. Together, we say grace around the table to our Father who gives grace and who lends his strength to our growing-up days.

I don’t know if, years from now, my kids will remember me as a “mean mom.” That label is irrelevant to me. What does matter to me is that I am remembered as a mother who walked their journeys with them and who, in the end, led them straight to the front porch of heaven.

Thank you, Joanne, for the permission and for the invitation to revisit my mothering heart. This is rich privilege. They (Nick, Colton, Jadon, and Amelia) are my legacy. As always …

Peace for the journey,

This contest is now over – random.org selected the winner. Congrats to Natasha Grimes!

PS: Leave a comment for an opportunity to win an official “Mean Moms” travel mug AND an autographed copy of Joanne’s book. (USA addresses only.) Even if you think your parenting years are behind you or you simply need a shot of parenting adrenaline, I promise that there’s something in this book for you! It’s a strong encouragement for all of us.

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on following dad . . .

dad and jadon in truck

Through the front windshield, I could see that they were talking – daddy telling a story to my thirteen-year-old son, sharing a ride together in that ’93 Chevy truck that’s been in the family for over two decades. I followed closely behind, staying in the lanes where he stayed and making the turns when he turned. He was leading me down an unfamiliar path, but I didn’t mind. I trust my daddy, and I knew that at the end of our ten-mile trek, we would arrive at our intended destination—my son’s apartment.

On our agenda? Moving my eldest child out of his current apartment into my parents’ home, where he will temporarily reside until he takes the hand of his bride in July. My husband did his due diligence last weekend in moving our second-born son out of the same apartment into his new living quarters. Needless to say, it’s been an exhausting couple of weeks for both of us.

Moves do that. They deplete us of our reserves. There are multiple, moving parts to every relocation. Whenever we rearrange our living situation, we can expect some rearrangement in a few other areas of our lives.

The heart.

The mind.

The soul.

A physical move is so much more than a change of address. A physical move shapes our interiors as well. Maybe not so much in a way that others notice but certainly at a level where we feel the shift within.

I’ve moved a lot over the years, lived in five states and changed my address at least twenty times. Moving is a tenet, perhaps, of the journey I’ve chosen, albeit not always an easy acceptance within. I’ve wrestled with a few changes of address and heartily welcomed some others. All twenty of them have shaped me, left their mark on me, and added their witness to my story.

By faith, I’m still standing. By faith, I’m still willing … to move as God directs, whether a move involving myself or in helping my children with their own moves. Why? Because there is something built in that place of relocation, a brick-upon-brick, cementing together of my interior because of my unyielding belief that God is up to something. That faith is stretched and strengthened with each move. That with every box packed in an old place and unpacked in a new location, a soul is asked to go deeper with God.

And really, when it gets down to the nitty-gritty of soul-matters, shouldn’t we all want to go deeper with God?

I want to go deeper with God, even when it’s hard. And so, I followed my daddy’s pick-up truck this weekend and helped my son with his relocation. In doing so, I allowed my soul to move to that place of surrender … again. To saying “yes” to the change that is coming. I cannot stop the packing on this one. I can only unpack my heart before the Father and allow him to keep building up these surrenders into a strong tower of personal faith.

How grateful I am for a windshield that allows me to look through and beyond my front bumper and to see my daddy in front of me, leading the way to our intended destination. He has taught me so very much about embracing new chapters in the journey and about putting a foot to the pedal of faith, even when it’s hard. No doubt, his ability to press forward has better enabled me to do the same.

For as long as time allows (and as long as the engine holds out), I’ll keep following closely behind my daddy, with or without his Chevy tail-lights to guide me. I trust him, and the guiding Light that has guided him for seventy-six years will lead us both safely to our final destination where we will unpack our belongings for the last time and where we will share the same address for all of eternity.

Lead on, daddy. I’m right behind you.

Happy Father’s Day.

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What I Learned this Year (top ten from the Lunchroom Lady)

25792039_s“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” –Galatians 6:22-23

 

Well, it’s official. This lunchroom lady has hung up her apron for the summer. That’s what my kids call me . . . the “lunchroom lady.” I remember the moment the label first surfaced on our first day of homeschooling two years ago. I was busy tidying up the kitchen after feeding my two students in our makeshift cafeteria (a.k.a. the dining room) when I heard my son playfully utter his request:

“Hey Lunchroom Lady, may I have another slice of pizza?”

I laughed back then. But after two years of making lunches, administering educational plans, keeping records, and keeping the peace between sibling-students, I don’t feel much like laughing anymore. Instead, I feel like crying. Why? Because I’m just not convinced it’s working for us—mostly for me.

Maybe because of the guilty feelings I carry about altering their social scene. Maybe because my personality isn’t well-suited for round-the-clock, child supervision. Maybe because, at forty-eight-years-old, I’d rather be pursuing other goals.

Am I hurting them? Am I hurting me? Probably – at least to some degree, and this is a difficult wrestling. These next several weeks will tell the rest of the story—whether or not my “want to” will resurface for another year of more of the same. I can’t imagine it will, but time has a way of adjusting emotions, reshaping feelings into something lesser than what was first felt and believed. What now seems so traumatic will (in coming days) seem less severe. Perhaps then will be the time to make decisions regarding my children’s educational needs, not now while stress threatens to muddy the waters of reasoned responses.

As a parent, I have a responsibility to educate my children, and as a citizen of the United States, I have a legal obligation as well. Accordingly, I can either allow the state this role or I can assume my position as the “lunchroom lady” as well as the many other roles that naturally surface alongside as requirement—teacher, principal, janitor, recess monitor, and the like. For a variety of reasons, my husband and I made the decision to homeschool our two youngest children a couple of years ago. And today, on the backside of our 180 days of compulsory attendance, I’m wondering about the depth and the strength of our learning.

What did we learn? Was it enough? Was it worth the investment?

I can’t speak for my kids, but I can offer a few thoughts about the depth and strength of my learning this year. Here are a few “take-aways” written on my final exam, a few tips from this lunchroom lady for those who choose to follow in my footsteps:

1) Selfishness doesn’t belong in the lunchroom; be prepared to take the test anyway.

2) Not every good idea is the right idea; choose rightly and be at peace.

3) Independent learning can foster laziness; when no one is watching, it’s easier to default to lethargy rather than industry.

4) A wise lunchroom lady understands that she must feed her soul before feeding others. Living it in reverse promotes crankiness.

5) Test days make poor study days; study daily, and you’ll walk more confidently and peacefully through the exam.

6) Manners are free; poor etiquette comes with a price tag.

7) The cafeteria is never really closed; after lunch comes supper—family life after the school day ends. Keep the apron handy as well as the Kleenex.

8) Strap on the Holy Spirit; pray for his fruit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control). It’s going to be a long day (see #7).

9) Grades are good indicators but aren’t always accurate reflectors of the rest of the story.

10) Lean into the rest of the story. This is the curriculum that matters the most.

And there you have it—a few closing thoughts from the lunchroom at Peace Academy. As you can tell, my kids weren’t the only ones who learned something this year. I was a student as well; truth be told, I probably failed more exams than either of them combined. It’s a sobering thought and, perhaps, a driving force behind my tears in recent days. At the age of forty-eight, I never imagined this would be my classroom—the curriculum that God would use as the crucible to refine and purify my heart. It’s my strong impression that we still have some work to do.

What did I learn? Was it enough? Was it worth the investment?

Time will tell, but until then, I must lean into the rest of the story . . . my story; read some more of the text and add a few lines of my own. This is the curriculum that matters. This is the course of study that counts for the kingdom, and this is the life I have chosen. God has generously laced this journey with his marvelous grace so that, no matter the grades on my report card, there is more than enough mercy and love to pass me through to forever.

Grace is not an excuse for failure—for not showing up to the classroom, not listening up to the teacher, and not living up to my learning. But grace is what it has always been—available. Available to catch me, cradle me, renew me and reshape me when I fail. Grace keeps me in step with God’s Spirit and, every now and again, he uses me as his conduit therein. Because of this truth (this overriding understanding that I am duly enabled by God’s grace to be a dispatcher of his Spirit), I am able to move forward beyond the stressors of this academic year and to consider a next one.

Maybe right now, you’re in the midst of a difficult learning season. You didn’t plan on adding this curriculum to the heavy course load you’re already carrying. Instead, it added you, and you cannot imagine making it through to the exam, much less passing it.

Take a moment to breathe. Take a moment to read, again, the ten tips from this lunchroom lady. Take a moment to pray over each one, and then take more than a moment (take two or ten or twenty) to consider #10. Lean into the rest of the story, and see if God doesn’t have something further to say to you. What you hear in those moments might just lend you enough strength and depth to walk the curriculum through to the finish.

Keep in step with the Spirit and keep company with his available grace. Against such things, there is no law. Instead, because of such things, there is life and, every now and again, there is laughter.

“Hey Lunchroom Lady, may I have another slice of pizza?”

Maybe, Son. Just maybe.

What difficult classroom are you experiencing in this season? Is there one particular tip from the list above that God is using as a prompt in your heart? Never underestimate the rest of the story. It just might be the best of your story in the end.

Click here to learn more about Beyond the Scars – a tool to help you or someone you love examine the rest of the story under the lens of grace. Peace and prayers, friend.

Photo credit – Copyright: chris_elwell / 123RF Stock Photo

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Sabbath Sunrise – a prayer for my son

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Paint my boy a Sabbath sunrise, Father – one filled with the color of hope, not the cover of despair.

Take the pain that’s been smeared onto his canvas at night and replace it with splashes of your morning grace.

What she has taken from him, replace it with what you have given to him. A hope. A future. A plan that includes something best, not something less.

His are deep wounds, bleeding red, hot, and furious. Stop the hemorrhaging with your hands—the very ones that bled and shed red for our sin and our pain.

I can no longer cradle him in my arms. My lullabies sing harshly, and I have few words to fix the ache within. Only scattered thoughts to fill the awkward pause in between his despair and his healing.

So Father, would you paint him a Sabbath sunrise? Would you paint me one as well?

How we need the color. The warmth. The reminder that all has not been lost in the night.

Your sun still rises. This is gain. This is resurrection. This is Sabbath.

Give us eyes to see it, minds to conceive it, and hearts to believe that you painted it just for us—your perfect peace in the midst of a perfect storm.

For him, my boy with a broken heart. For me, his mom whose heart breaks alongside.

Amen.

Image credit: firewings / 123RF Stock Photo

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